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To grow bigger by belittling oneself

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2014-11-15 08:19

To grow bigger by belittling oneself

[Photo by Wang Xiaoying/China Daily]

When underachievers thrust themselves into the spotlight, their display of self-debasement sets off alarms in a go-getter culture.

The first time I detected a major rift in public perception toward the rising tide in the mentality of underachieving in China was the backlash that ensued after filmmaker Feng Xiaogang commented on an Internet meme.

He was puzzled that the word diaosi was spreading like wildfire and, more surprisingly, used as a self-description. The literal meaning for the word is pubic hair for man and, as the male genitalia is sometimes used to disparage, diaosi refers to someone extremely insignificant. Why would a self-respecting person call himself that, Feng wondered publicly, to which he was accused of losing touch with the gestalt.

For someone who made his name by unofficially representing the comic instincts of the common people, that was a big slap in the face.

Diaosi is not really an online coinage. It has been in use in many Chinese dialects, usually as a crude term for someone in bad shape or luck, but it has occasionally taken on the opposite meaning of swagger. To my knowledge, the word diao popped up in the press when Taiwan superstar Jay Chou flaunted it as his pet phrase for "awesome".

I have to point out that, like most slang terms descriptive of sexual organs, they tend to be overused and, as such, soon lose their literal connotation, to the point many spit out the words with little knowledge of their original definitions.

I didn't realize some terms I grew up with are rooted in sexual undertones until well into my adulthood and it's probably the same for others because some terms would not make sense when used by another gender - some women also call themselves diaosi.

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